Do you need a dedicated GPS or a bike computer? If you want the most reliable speed and cadence records, you would definitely want a bike computer. GPS units can be inconsistent, expensive and battery-intensive. The best bike computer will record every second of your adventures, no matter where they take you.

Some riders prefer a simple bike computer for ease of use. Others want the deluxe option with heart rate, cadence and power measurements. Whichever level of computer you choose, it’s great to have a dedicated unit that lives on the bike.

Bike computers can also be an inexpensive complement to a smartphone GPS log. Cheaper, more durable and safer in rain, they’re the perfect handlebar display unit. Here at The Adventure Junkies, we want to steer our readers to the best gear for their rides. We’ve prepared this guide to help you get started on your own adventure.

 

CLICK HERE to Download our FREE Quick Starter Guide to Mountain Biking

 

 

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO FIND THE BEST BIKE COMPUTER

PICTURE
BIKE COMPUTER
BEST USE
WIRELESS?
WEIGHT
PRICE
RATING
PICTURE
BIKE COMPUTER
BEST USE
WIRELESS?
WEIGHT
PRICE
RATING
CatEye Padrone
Overall
Yes
32 g
$$$
4.3
CatEye Strada
Overall
Yes
90 g
$$$
4.2
Giant Neos Ant+
ANT+ Connections
Yes
N/A
$$$$
5.0
Enkeeo Wireless
Backlit
Yes
30 g
$$
N/a
Suaoki Wireless
Backlit
Unit only
68 g
$$
3.2
CatEye Padrone Smart+
Smartphone linking
Yes
30 g
$$$$$
3.4
CatEye - Velo 9
Wired
No
113 g
$$
4.3
Planet Bike 8.0 Protege
Wired
No
91 g
$$
4.2
Bell Console 200 Digital Wireless
Budget
Yes
90 g
$
4.1
LESHP Cycle Computer
Budget
No
68 g
$
3.3

 

 

BIKE COMPUTERS 101

 

5 THINGS TO CONSIDER TO FIND THE BEST BIKE COMPUTER

 

1. SPEED SENSOR CONNECTIONS

Bike computers are also called speedometers. The primary reason to own one is to know your speed, which is why every computer measures speed and time ridden.

They do this by counting the number of times a magnet, usually on the rear wheel, passes a sensor on the fork or triangle. If you aren’t sure which part is which, see our previous article on mountain bike parts.

 

WIRED CONNECTION

The most basic sensors are connected by a thin cable. They can be harder to install, but won’t require a battery for the sensor.

Once installed, they should be fine until you decide to buy a new one. They aren’t as popular today with an industry moving to internal cables and wireless components, but are great for riders who want to avoid interference or battery issues.

If installation gets tough, see bike mechanic legend Sheldon Brown’s 17 tips on installing computers.

 

WIRELESS CONNECTION

Wireless sensors are the most common. They tend to work well but can run into interference issues with other electronic signals. Some of the wireless units can also work with other types of sensors, such as heart rate monitors.

 

2. ADDITIONAL SENSORS

 

CADENCE SENSOR

Cadence is a measure of how fast your pedals turn, an important consideration for racers and anyone looking to improve. A cadence sensor can be the difference between a bike ride and a training ride. If you’re thinking about starting a training program, see our guide on mountain bike training.

 

HEART RATE SENSOR

Heart-rate monitors add another measure of exertion, even more crucial than cadence for serious racers. Race training is done in different heart rate “zones,” or ranges. Knowing your heart rate is important for structured training programs, but not always helpful on a group ride.

If you want to learn about heart rate zoning, start with this guide from BikeRadar.

 

VIDEO: GCN ON IMPROVING CYCLING CADENCE

 

3. DATA TRANSFER AND CONNECTIONS

Most data transfer is fairly straightforward and low-tech: Write it down in a training log. The higher end bike computers are more like a Garmin GPS or smartphone, though, and will upload or transmit the data to your computer. This isn’t a must-have feature for most cyclists, but it’s important to consider if you want to keep a digital record.

At the highest end, bike computers can even sync with your phone, providing call details, GPS links, and more.

 

4. BACKLIGHTING

One of the most important features of any bike computer is the display. A good one is visible and easy to read at a glance; a great one is backlit and visible even in the dark. If you ride trails at night, dusk, or dawn, you’ll want a backlit computer.

 

5. DISPLAY OPTIONS AND INTERFACE

If you’ve already determined that you just want to know your speed, this will be an easy choice. Some units have as many as 15 functions, displaying average speed, top speed, time, calories burned or even an ecological metric like how much CO2 you aren’t emitting in a car.

 

bike computer must-have

Photo by istockphoto.com/portfolio/filrom

 

BIKE COMPUTER REVIEWS

 

1. BEST BIKE COMPUTERS FOR ALL AROUND

CATEYE PADRONE

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Simple, stress-free speed and distance recording with a giant screen

WIRELESS: Yes

WEIGHT: 32g

PROS: Auto-pause, huge display, reliable, color variety

CONS: No data transfer

 

 

 

CATEYE STRADA

Check out the latest price on:
AmazonJenson USA

BEST FOR: Reliable and highly accurate speed and time logging

WIRELESS: Yes

WEIGHT: 90g

PROS: Auto-pause, large display, reliable, price

CONS: Weight, no data transfer

 

 

 

 

2. BEST BIKE COMPUTERS FOR ANT+ CONNECTIONS

GIANT NEOS ANT+

Check out the latest price on:
Jenson USA

BEST FOR: Cyclists who want to record speed, cadence, and heart rate all on the same device

WIRELESS: Yes

WEIGHT: Unknown

PROS: ANT+ connection to additional sensors, backlit, lots of functions, data transfer

CONS: Price, cadence meter, heart rate monitor not included

 

 

 

 

3. BEST BIKE COMPUTERS FOR BACKLIT

ENKEEO WIRELESS

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Bright backlit screen for riders who like USB charging

WIRELESS: Yes

WEIGHT: 30g

PROS: Works with two bikes, bright display, USB charging, easy operation, price

CONS: Lower battery life than others, no data transfer

 

 

 

SUAOKI WIRELESS

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Strong backlight and cadence sensor for riders who don’t mind a wire between the cadence and speed sensor

WIRELESS: Unit only

WEIGHT: 68g

PROS: Cadence sensor included, backlight, battery life, price

CONS: Cadence and speed sensor are wired to each other, no data transfer

 

 

 

 

4. BEST BIKE COMPUTERS FOR SMARTPHONE LINKING

CATEYE PADRONE SMART+

Check out the latest price on:
AmazonJenson USA

BEST FOR: Data junkies who want to link their GPS smartphone, heart rate monitor, and cadence and speed sensors

WIRELESS: Yes

WEIGHT: 30g

PROS: Battery life, smartphone link, cadence and heart rate monitor, web upload

CONS: Price

 

 

 

 

5. BEST BIKE COMPUTERS FOR WIRED

CATEYE VELO 9

Check out the latest price on:
AmazonJenson USA

BEST FOR: Reliable and simple functionality in a wired computer with maximum battery life

WIRELESS: No

WEIGHT: 113g

PROS: Reliability, no signal interference, price, auto-stop, 3 year battery

CONS: Wires require more initial setup, no data transfer

 

 

 

PLANET BIKE 8.0 PROTEGE

Check out the latest price on:
AmazonJenson USA

BEST FOR: Multi-function display on a long-lived wired device

WIRELESS: No

WEIGHT: 91g

PROS: Price, long lasting battery, no signal interference, customizable display

CONS: Wires require more initial setup, no data transfer

 

 

 

 

6. BEST BIKE COMPUTERS FOR BUDGET

BELL CONSOLE 200 DIGITAL WIRELESS

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Budget users who want backlighting and multi-function displays

WIRELESS: Yes

WEIGHT: 90g

PROS: Backlit, 15 functions, price

CONS: Less durable, no data transfer

 

 

 

LESHP CYCLE COMPUTER

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Riders who go through extreme weather and need a great backlit display on a budget

WIRELESS: No

WEIGHT: 68g

PROS: Waterproof, backlit, multi-function, price

CONS: No data transfer

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